The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Mural of the Year
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710 Madeline Street (1) (RIP)   

Tabor Baptist Church commissioned Charlie Johnston to render two beautiful murals at this location. This is the West wall.

Location: SE corner Madeline & Harvard; West Face only is RIP

Occupant: Tabor Baptist Church

District: Transcona

Neighbourhood: Victoria West

Artist(s): Charlie Johnston (C5 Artworks)

Year: 2007


Mural of the Year 2007   

After the Murals were finished, Tabor Baptist church posted a banner on their front balcony, which reads the following:

Jesus Mural- The Mural of Jesus depicts him looking towards humanity in love. His expression is one of concern for a world caught in the throws of pain and hurt. Although only in his early thirties, Jesus' face shows the premature signs of aging caused by stress as he considers the price of real forgiveness of mankind.
In the eye of Jesus you will see the connecting point between the two Murals- a reflection of what he is looking at. In Jesus' eyes we are all God's children and the image of an infant can be seen.

Worshipper Mural- This Mural is intended to represent those who are the worshipper of Jesus Christ. In her upward gaze you see the reflection of the cross as she looks upon the ultimate demonstration of love.
Around her mouth and eyes you will notice the 'sfumato' effect (best known in the picture of the Mona Lisa). This subconscious effect encourages the observer to introduce his or her own personal emotional effect into the Mural. We are all welcome to come to Jesus in times of joy, sadness and confusion.

Charlie Johnston: "I had just finished the Manitoba Hydro Mural (see 1637 Portage Avenue, this section), and I was expecting to do a nice quiet Mural in suburbia. But I was in for a surprise. I had just projected the Mural and I'd laid it out (see photo 4), and I was in Thompson on a Wolf-related project. I received a call from a radio show asking if I had any reaction to the newspaper article about my Jesus Mural. I said 'what article'- I had no idea what was going on. That's when I found out that one of the neighbours of the church was up in arms about the Mural, wanted it painted over, thought it was an eyesore and called it a monstrosity and glorified graffiti. It turns out that she has a very narrow view of what Murals are- she felt that it identified her neighbourhood as an inner city slum, because to her, the sole purpose and function of Murals are to clean up ghettos and to camouflage or cover up eyesore buildings. The idea, I guess, is that if there's a Mural in her neighbourhood, that neighbourhood will be perceived as a ghetto and it's going to drive down her property values."

"Newspaper articles and editorials ensued, along with letters to the editor, almost all in favour of the church and the Mural. Several papers picked up the story as well, including the entire Sun Media chain. So the story grew wings and travelled. I received various emails, including one from the editor of Public Art Review in Minneapolis who also did a story (Ed note- entitled 'Jesus in Your Face'). There was a radio talk show with call-in reaction. It was a real affirmation that the one negative reaction stimulated the positive reactions of hundreds of other people in support what I was doing, Murals in general, and THAT Mural in particular. Nothing but positive responses. In addition, it was gratifying to me that what I was doing was being made note of. Any reaction is better than no reaction. If art is a visual dialogue then there has to be someone listening. That's what public art is- it's there to stimulate dialogue."

"I was neither my intent, nor the Church's, to stir up controversy. If you look at the Mural objectively, there's nothing controversial about it. If we stay on the topic of Jesus, there are at least 100 different examples of pieces of controversial art- If you're talking film you could look at Mel Gibson's movie, or Scorceses' 'Last Temptation of Christ'. The art world is rife with images of Jesus in any one of a thousand manner of representations, most of which are worshipful homages; other ones are using the Christ image to make some sort of statement about culture, values or beliefs; and they're not always nice images. But there's none of that here. It's simply a portrait of Jesus in a large scale format. "

"The idea of the Mural itself is very simple. Jesus lived a simple life, was from simple origins and lived amongst the common people and shared in their struggles. I worked fairly closely with the minister, Rod Giesbrecht, who worked with his church committee. He had a fairly clear idea of what he wanted, and I worked very close to that idea. Tabor Church is what he called a back door church (the usual entrance is from the back door), so he wanted that connection between a Mural on the front of the building and a Mural on the back. The image of the child in Christ's eyes is how he looked upon his flock- they're like his children in the eyes of God. So there's a relationship between the two Murals: he's looking down from heaven onto his flock, and the female worshipper is looking up to Christ with the reflection of the cross in her eyes."

"We both wanted it to be an ethnically correct portrayal of Christ. His church has a ministry overseas- they do some missionary work. As an aside, this is not the first large scale painting of Jesus I have done. Another one I had done was the other way- more of a Max von Sydow or Charlton Heston, blue eyed blond hair strong figure. In truth, it seems that every culture that represents Jesus embellishes the image with their own ethnicity. Christ may be the most visually represented figure in history, and everybody applies their own perceptual interpretation of his life. The Tabor Mural was more of the human in the divine. We both wanted the same thing and not an idealized, eurocentric thing."

"Sfumato is a Renaissance technique to create an ambiguity in a field of colour, portrait or rendition. I think technically it also refers to light emerging from darkness- it's a painting technique, and Leonardo da Vinci is probably best known for it. I tried to use this technique throughout both Murals. When you see that effect, you tend to project your own idea into the portrait- you read the emotions differently, which gives you the feeling that it changes; it's mysterious. This portrait of CHRIST is literally a face emerging from a gradient blend from dark to light, quite literally."

"I chose the model for the Worshipper. That lends authenticity- rather than an imagined portrait which can come off as contrived. She once did a dance performance at our gallery (Vault Gallery). She was tickled to be the model."

"I used projection. I got them both laid out and then I worked on them sequentially and did the Jesus wall first and then came back and did the Worshipper. In the front there was a grade going up to the wall which made it awkward, and really a one way trip on and off with the lift. I roughed in the Worshipper with a ladder."

"The walls were medium to heavy grade stucco and I used rollers and brushes. And it really worked! What I really liked about it was that the scale of the portraits and the stucco- the stucco had this splesh-like feeling to give a fleshy kind of texture to the surface that otherwise wouldn't be there. It was one of those wonderful synchronicities. My painting and roller blending techniques worked very well- I used a lot of paint. It's not easy to catch tiny details on that type of rough surface without using airbrush."

"There wasn't really much traffic there while I was working until after the article, when a lot of people came by, honking their horns, giving the thumbs up. The kids at the Daycare there were continually keeping a tab on what I was doing. One day they came out and did chalk drawings of Jesus on the sidewalk in front of the Mural."